The Ballard Institute’s Living Objects: African American Puppetry Symposium

deadline for submissions: 
November 19, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry / University of Connecticut
contact email: 

Call for Proposals

The Ballard Institute’s Living Objects: African American Puppetry Symposium


The Ballard Institute and Museum at the University of Connecticut welcome 200- to 300-word proposals for the Living Objects: African-American Puppetry Symposium, which will take place Friday through Sunday, February 8-10, 2019 at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. The symposium will be held in conjunction with the Living Objects: African American Puppetry exhibition on display October 25, 2018 through April 7, 2019, at the Ballard Institute Museum, which will feature work by artists including Nehprii Amenii, Edna Bland, Brad Brewer, Ashley Bryan, Garland Farwell, Susan Fulcher,  Cedwan Hooks, Akbar Imhotep, Dirk Joseph, Pope.L, Papel Machete, Tarish Pipkins, Paulette Richards, and Yolanda Sampson.


We are interested in analyses interrogating the intersections between representations of race in American culture, portrayals of blackness in performance spaces, the African-American puppeteer and puppet, and contemporary puppetry and history from post-Reconstruction to the present. From scholarship in Africana studies, race and ethnic studies, puppetry studies, theatre history, art history, material culture studies, and performance studies to cultural studies and criticism, we propose to showcase diverse engagements with the ways African American artistry interacts with American history and identity.


At the heart of the Living Objects: African American Puppetry Symposium is an exploration of how African American puppetry exists today, as well as how such puppets engage with performative blackness. We encourage explorations of how the African American puppet resists dominant conceptions of the black body. What does it mean for an African American puppet to exist at this particular moment of American history? How does African American puppetry engage with history? What are the implications of representing the American black body as an object? We strongly encourage interdisciplinary submissions from emerging and established scholars, graduate students, writers, and artists wrestling with such questions.


Possible topics include:

  • The history of African American puppet, mask, and object performance since 1865.

  • African diaspora object performance in the Americas.

  • African American puppetry and engagement with popular culture, including the depiction of African American life, identity, and culture.

  • Puppetry and performance and their engagement with contemporary African American art.

  • Puppetry and performance their engagement with historical movements.

  • Interactions between objects and conceptions of blackness.

  • Relationships between African American puppetry and American history.


Keynote Speaker: Dr. Paulette Richards.

Chair: Dr. John Bell.


All accepted papers and presentations will be considered for the Ballard Institute’s forthcoming Living Objects digital anthology featuring a blend of critical and creative essays pertaining to African American puppetry and performance art.


Please send abstracts and a brief third-person biography to Dr. John Bell at with “[insert your first name and last name] Proposal” as the email subject title. Deadline: November 19, 2018.

For further information regarding the exhibit and conference, we encourage you to check out our website here.